UPDATE: Pakistan’s government has asked the High Court to delay the announcement re: Asia Bibi’s appeal. The Interior Ministry has intelligence regarding potential riots and protests.
Pakistan (MNN) – Pakistan has been in an uproar since October 8th, the date of a final Supreme Court hearing regarding the fate of Asia Bibi.
The hearing concluded and yet, the three-justice panel did not immediately release their decision. As the world waited with bated breath, the nation’s Islamists took to the streets to protest.
Radical Muslim leaders are also campaigning for a stricter enforcement of the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. These security issues have played into the court’s silence.
However, FMI’s national director for Pakistan, Brother Nehemiah, says the verdict in Bibi’s final appeal is expected sometime in the next 24 hours (Monday).
Bruce Allen, FMI’s executive director, offers one potential reason for the delay. “They’re trying to arrange for the security of her release before they would just release her publicly. Even in recent days, another fatwa has been issued against Asia Bibi so that if she literally stepped out of the prison onto the street, there would be people waiting to kill her.”
Security Issues And New Beginnings
Death threats against Asia Bibi are so numerous and credible that, even though she’s incarcerated in a high-security prison, she cooks her own food (to prevent poisoning) and now is guarded by an additional 14 military rangers.
Allen says the next few days in Pakistan could be very volatile. “The Pakistan political party that issued the fatwa against her is threatening the Supreme Court justices, threatening a shutdown across the country.”
In spite of this, “It’s looking like they are going to announce that she would be released and then be whisked away by helicopter. Her family has been shifted from elsewhere in Europe now to the UK [United Kingdom]. They are eager to grant asylum to her.”
If riots do break out, Allen says Pakistani Christians will be extremely vulnerable.
“Many Christians inside Pakistan do not know about the Asia Bibi case. We know more about it here in the West than a national Pakistani Christian does. They are so marginalized in their society, and because of low literacy rates, they’re not reading the newspapers or things like that. It’s only been in recent days as this case went to the Supreme Court that it captured national [Pakistani] attention.”
In other words, Allen believes militant Muslims will use the Asia Bibi case as an opportunity to attack Christian families and churches caught unaware and, therefore, unprepared.
A practical response is to be praying. “We want to be praying that Christian leaders, the pastors of these congregations would be able to prepare, be able to guide them, bring relief, protect them — all the things that a godly shepherd would want to do for his congregation.”
Pray for Asia, her family, the prison warden and guards, the court and judges, those who may be helping to prepare a new home for her, for Pakistani society at large, and for Christians in particular.
This is also an opportunity to pray for change, Allen adds. “Pray for the reform of these highly-abused blasphemy laws. There’s a new Prime Minister this year, a new government. Perhaps Parliament will tackle this issue, once and for all.”
(Header photo courtesy supremecourt.gov.pk)